After being released from prison, many ex-convicts find that re-entry into society is hard. After being released, the first thought that most have is how to find accommodation. When an ex-convict does not have a family that they can live with, finding accommodation is a priority. Significantly, the two areas where felons struggle after release is ‘finding housing and a job’.
If you are in such a position, this article can aid you to find felony approved apartments near me. Here, we will explain why some landlords may reject your housing application. Also, the steps you should take when searching for an apartment or house will be listed. The places where ex-convicts can find accommodation will be stated and tips that can help you get an apartment will be listed. Importantly, everything a felon should know about Section 8 housing will be explained. Lastly, we will list a few things you can do to improve your chances of being approved by a landlord.
Is there a law concerning ‘renting apartments to felons?’ The quick answer is NO! Landlords, agents or management councils reserve the right to conduct a background check on potential renters. Also, landlords can ask the renter for their criminal history. If the landlord does not wish to rent an apartment to a felon, that is his/her prerogative. Your criminal record can hinder your ability to get a rental. There is no law that forbids a landlord from refusing to rent an apartment to a felon. That being said, here are apartments that work with felonies.
Can a Felony Ruin Your Chances of Getting a Housing?
Of course, yes. The Fair Housing Act of 1988 mentions a range of discrimination. Discrimination based on ethnicity, family status, religion, race, gender, and disability is, according to the Act, considered illegal.
Screening applicants for an apartment based on criminal records do not come under discrimination as the law reserves landlords’ right to choose whether or not to accept or deny housing applicant. This right is said to help property managers or landlords curb risks of allowing criminals into their facilities.
It is, however, important to draw a line between a police arrest and a conviction.
What Do Landlords Want?
Before you begin booking appointments to checkout apartments, you need to understand the landlords’ mindset.
What do landlords seek in tenants? What are their fears and concerns?
Here are common desires among landlords:
- The regular and full rental payment
- Fully employed tenants or with a steady flow of income
- Ability to keep the property clean and without major damages
- Calm and peaceful tenants – no drugs, violence, etc.
Knowledge of these will help you relate with potential landlords in the most appropriate ways. Discussing with them rightly may convince them and, in turn, increase your chance of securing an apartment even with your felony record.
Differentiating Conviction from Related Offenses
While an ordinary police arrest may reflect on a person’s criminal record, that alone – without actual conviction – cannot hinder your chances of renting an apartment.
The Fair Housing guidelines also overlook disabled people and drug addicts. For tenants with drug addiction, they may have to explain how their addiction led to the crime and efforts put into addressing the addiction concern. This entails rehabilitation schemes, certifications, and relevant references that verify that the addiction is now in the past.
Here’s one thing to have in mind – a landlord reserves the right to reject a convict whose record shows a crime related to distribution or manufacturing of illicit drugs.
Department of Urban Housing Development stipulates that it is offensive for a landlord to cover up the real discrimination with criminal records. This may attract some legal punishments.
Forinstance, a landlord who rejects a Hispanic or Black person with a felony but accepts a white tenant with similar records violates the Fair Housing Act and will be punished accordingly.
One concern, however, is that persons have had a criminal record that occurred while they were only, say, 18. This crime –probably done in ignorance – will linger on their records for life. So, landlords should be able to, with their discretion, differentiate between one who’s a typical con and one who made a one-time mistake and is willing to change and reintegrate into the society.
Where to Look for an Apartment as a Felon
The law grants rental property managers and landlords the right to carry out a background investigation on anyone who wishes to rent an apartment. Such potential tenants may be rejected if anything incriminating is found on their records – regardless of the crime and when it was committed. While this may be widely viewed as some form of discrimination, the law thinks differently.
As soon as a criminal past is discovered on your record, your chances of getting an apartment drops – dramatically.
Any housing hope then for these felons?
There is much hope. Going for rental property listings that do not demand a criminal background check is your best bet.
Where are such apartments found?
Search for small-time homeowners seeking to rent out one or two apartments – they are your best opportunities at getting an apartment.
Before you begin a search for an apartment on any real estate directory, here are guidelines to help you maximize your chances of landing an apartment:
- Search for apartments in less popular areas with low cost of living and, possibly, on the outskirt of major towns and cities. Apartments in such areas attract far cheaper rents, as demand is relatively lower. Also, landlords’ demands are less since they hardly ever get tenants.
- Go for apartments for rent in a duplex or a single family home. In most cases, these apartments are not handled by management firms, but by private landlords. This automatically beats down protocols.
- Consider a single room or basement rentals. The low demand for these options automatically increases a felon’s chances.
- Ignore rentals in huge apartment complexes. Companies mostly control these apartments, and with their strict guidelines, your chances of being accepted as felon drops.
- Carefully go through the listings and check if the required background check is stated from the onset. If clearly stated, proceeding with such an apartment is a complete waste of time.
- Look beyond “Apt/Housing” categories. Search deeper in categories like “Sublets/Temporary” and “Room/Shared.”
Community Pillar Program(2) by Zillow is another promising search engine for felon-friendly apartments. This directory is specially designed to connect people with landlords who have low rental requirement standards.
Craigslist also offers felon-free listings.
4 reasons why some landlords do not want to rent apartments to felons
When trying to rent an apartment, you may be required to submit your criminal history. In most cases, the presence of a felony conviction in your history makes getting a rental a near impossible task. While this may seem discriminatory, a landlord or management company reserves the right to rent their property to whom they please. The reasons why many landlords or managers avoid renting to felons will be explained below:
1. Landlords may see the conviction as proof of troublesome character or behavior. The potential landlord or management company may reject the felon’s application to avoid a situation where the peace on the property is disturbed.
Furthermore, the landlord may see the felon as an individual with little respect for rules. To prevent the situation where the felon’s activities in the apartment disturb neighbors, some landlords avoid renting apartments to felons.
2. Some homeowners or landlords fear that the felon may be financially unstable. To rent an apartment, you may need to show that you have a job and are capable of meeting rent payments. Felons may find it difficult to gain employment immediately after their release from prison. Therefore, any attempt to rent an apartment may be met with reluctance from the landlord.
3. Felons who were convicted for violent crimes may be seen as dangerous. To ensure the safety of all the people residing in an apartment building or home, landlords may refuse the application of some felons. Convictions for crimes like assault, armed robbery, arson, and acts of terror can reduce a felon’s chances of being approved for a rental. Furthermore, if a potential renter is listed in the sex offenders registry, the renter may find that their rental applications are often denied.
Landlords may try to ensure the safety of other renters, neighbors, and children by refusing to rent apartments to individuals convicted for violent and sex-related crimes.
4. The landlord may be biased. Some landlords just prefer to rent apartments to people without a criminal record. While this is discriminatory, it is a common occurrence.
3 Steps a felon should take before trying to rent an apartment
When compared to an individual without a criminal record, it is noticeably more difficult for a convict to be approved for a rental. Hence, we have compiled the things convicts should do before applying to rent an apartment. By following these steps and checking the boxes, the convict’s chances of being approved for a rental will increase.
1. Get a job: Even people without a criminal history must show that they can pay the rent when due. To show that you are responsible, can afford the rent, and any other bills you may incur, you need proof that you are gainfully employed. Unemployed felons have almost no chance of being approved for a rental at a management company owned building.
2. Volunteer in your free time: If you are a felon who has been unable to find a job, you should volunteer at organizations in need of help. By volunteering, you are gaining work experience, showing hard work and responsibility. Also, volunteering is a great way to socialize and make friends.
Importantly, your bosses in the organization where you volunteer can write you a character reference when you need it.
3. Get some referees: To show that you are of good character and are hardworking, you can ask your bosses or colleagues to write reference letters. These letters will attest to your character and can help you get accommodation or a job.
If you are moving from another apartment, you can ask your former landlord to write a letter attesting to your good character.
After following the above-listed steps, you can then try to rent an apartment. If you are a felon, you can further increase your chances of renting an apartment by following the tips listed below:
Finding Felon Friendly Apartments Near Me
– Try to avoid buildings owned by a management company. Instead, try rentals owned by a private landlord. The management company may be more meticulous when approving rentals and will be interested in your criminal background. Private landlords though may not be as meticulous. A few landlords may not even ask about your criminal history. Many landlords are just interested in receiving the rent when it is due.
– Search for a building where subletting is allowed or temporary residence is possible. By sharing a home or becoming a sub-letter, felons are not going to deal with the landlord directly.
Hence, an individual without a criminal record can rent an apartment. Afterward, the felon could share the home or rent a room from the owner of the apartment.
– Try to rent apartments farther away from the city. Landlords may be willing to rent apartments to felons due to low demand. The rent for places further away from the city is usually cheaper.
– To avoid wasting your own time by trying to rent apartments without success, avoid apartment listings where a background check is mandatory.
– Some individuals rent out a single room in their home, their basement or a converted garage. If you do not need an apartment, you can try to rent a room from these individuals.
– Search for felon housing programs. These programs can connect felons to landlords who are willing to overlook previous convictions and give felons a chance to rent an apartment.
A major problem that felons are faced with is ‘finding affordable accommodation’. If the felon has been unable to find a job, this problem is multiplied because landlords prefer renters who have jobs. One solution is to apply for a Section 8 Housing Voucher. Section 8 housing will allow individuals to rent an apartment at a 60-70% discount from an approved or participating landlord. Here, we will explain everything a felon should know about getting funded rental assistance.
Can Felons Secure Section 8 and Other Public Housing Slot?
Of course, yes. You – felons – may still be eligible for Section 8 Voucher or related public housing schemes, depending on the actual crime committed. That said, the following criminal records ruins your chances of benefiting from federal housing:
- Drug trafficking
- Sex crimes
- Violent crimes/assaults
- Special fraud cases
Do you have any of these crimes on your record? No use applying to a federal housing scheme – you’d be denied.
However, if you have none of these, your chances are high – you may proceed to apply. Go ahead to a PHA office and begin your application process. Provide the requirements and get listed on the waitlist.
Have in mind, however, that these guidelines and requirements vary from state to state. Some local housing authorities reject any applicant with records of a felony – regardless of the charges. Others may consider convicts based on the number of years since the felon was charged.
That said, you also need to understand that most housing scheme’s applicants outnumber the available slots. This does not only increase the strictness of the screening; it extends the screening period. So, you may have to wait for between 6 to – as much as – two years, before it gets to your spot on the waitlist.
So, if you seek an immediate housing solution, you may look away from public housing. However, you could continue with your application process while you seek a more feasible alternative to your immediate accommodation needs.
Everything felons should know about getting a Section 8 housing voucher
1. Section 8 housing vouchers can only be used with participating landlords. This means that even if you are approved for Section 8, you may be unable to rent apartments from some landlords. In this case, you will need to inquire if Section 8 is accepted before proceeding with the rental application process.
2. There is no guarantee that you will get Section 8. There are many guidelines that are used to decide who to give Section 8 assistance. Even individuals with no criminal record may be refused Section 8 housing. Hence, we recommend that you do not assume that approval is assured.
3. The nature of your convictions can easily ruin your chances of being approved for Section 8. Crimes like assault, drug possession or trafficking, identity or credit card fraud, and sex crimes can disqualify you. If you are applying for Section 8 with your family and one member of your family has the above-stated conviction, your application may not be approved.
4. Federal guidelines are used to decide who to give Section 8 housing vouchers. However, there are other state guidelines that must be adhered to. The presence of both guidelines narrows down the people eligible to receive Section 8 assistance. These guidelines also reduce the chances that felons have at being approved for Section 8.
5. For a felon to be eligible for Section 8, their conviction should be more than 5 years old. In a few states, the conviction should have occurred more than 10 years ago. Research which rule applies to the state you reside in before applying for Section 8.
Some states allow some exceptions. If your conviction occurred less than 5 years ago but you have finished a rehabilitation program, your Section 8 application may be considered.
It is also important to note that some housing authorities reject Section 8 housing applications from felons. Here, the gravity of the offense or how long ago the crime occurred is not considered.
6. Being approved for Section 8 assistance can take up to 2 years. If you are a felon that would like to benefit from Section 8, you may need to find alternative accommodation first. Due to the volume of people that apply for Section 8 housing, you may have to wait for a long time before it is your turn. In the long run, Section 8 is useful for felons who wish to get affordable housing. However, Section 8 cannot solve immediate accommodation problems. You can get to your turn on the waitlist in 6 months in rare cases.
Some housing authorities have had to close their waitlist because of the demand for Section 8 housing vouchers. If the list in your region has been closed, ask when the list will be reopened and apply at a later date.
While you are on the waitlist, you should check periodically to ensure that you are still on the list. If the list is still active, your place on the list should be moving up. Where there are many people on the waitlist, your place on the line may advance slowly. IF you do not have any ties or obligations in the region where you reside, you can move to a less competitive community. In a less competitive community, the waitlist for Section 8 housing will be reduced. Hence, you will be able to get approval for Section 8 housing in 6-12 months.
7. A criminal background check is required. When you apply for public housing, a background check will be conducted. This check will show any criminal history you have. For this reason, you should not lie when filling in the application form. If the background check shows a felony or multiple felonies, the housing authority reserves the right to deny your Section 8 application.
Importantly, if a member of your family has a criminal record, your application for Section 8 housing may be denied for this reason.
If your Section 8 application has been granted, landlords participating in the housing program can carry a second background check.
8. After submitting the documents required to apply for a Section 8 housing voucher, you may be interviewed. During the interview, a representative from the housing authority may inquire about your criminal history. Answer honestly and explain what steps you have taken to improve your life and value in society.
9. Unemployed people can also qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers. Many felons struggle with finding employment. The upside for unemployed felons who need Section 8 is that they do not have to find employment before applying for public housing. It is recommended that felons still try to find employment while on the waitlist for Section 8.
10. Individuals who have Section 8 housing are obligated to state if there are felons living with them.
Before the felon moves in, it is important that the Housing Authorities are informed. Hiding the fact that your new resident is a felon could cause the Housing authority to terminate your Section 8 agreement. For violating the terms of your agreement, you may also be banned from applying for Section 8 again.
Recipients of Section 8 housing vouchers should not allow felons convicted of sex or drug-related crimes to reside with them. This is because felons with sex or drug-related crime convictions are banned from applying for Section 8 benefits.
If you inform your landlord that a felon may be coming to visit or stay with you, a brief stay may be allowed. Ensure that your guests leave after the approved period. Failure to do this could cause you to lose your Section 8 benefits.
11. Some circumstances can result in your Section 8 application being seen as a priority. If you are homeless, have health problems, or are a victim of domestic abuse, your Section 8 application will be seen as a priority. Also, if you currently use more than 50% of your salary to pay rent, your application will be pushed to the top.
12. The housing voucher can be used in whatever apartment you move into. After you have been approved for a Section 8 housing voucher, look for a participating landlord and sign the lease. When your lease expires and you wish to move into another participating apartment, you can use the housing voucher again.
Even if you get approved to receive Section 8 benefits, you will still need to convince a landlord to accept your application despite your criminal background. Here are a few things you can do to persuade a landlord to rent an apartment to you;
1. Ask if you can pay your rent a few months in advance. This will show the landlord that you can afford to rent the apartment and will not default on your payment.
2. Attend the interview and answer all questions honestly. During the interview, the landlord may ask about your criminal history. Be honest when talking about your criminal history. Also, explain why the situation occurred and go on to explain how you have changed. It is important that you can show the landlord that you are trustworthy and of good character.
If you lie about your criminal history and your landlord runs a background check, your application may be denied because you were dishonest.
3. Attend the interview with a reference letter from your former landlord. This letter should attest to your good character. You can also provide reference letters from your boss at work.
Your potential landlord could ask for the phone number of your referees. Inform your referees that you will be giving out their numbers before or immediately after doing so.
Pro Tips For getting Apartments for Rent that Are felony friendly
- Increase Your Chances by Volunteering
If you are currently on a part-time job, or unemployed, volunteering may land you an apartment faster than you ever imagined. Interestingly, this is not as time-consuming as you may think. Several churches, NGOs and community clubs are always on the lookout for more hands to help out.
How does this work?
First, volunteering links you up with many people you would never get the opportunity to meet. Such personal networks can do a whole lot. You may come across someone who has an apartment for rent or one who could refer you to someone who has. Landlords feel more comfortable leasing their properties to persons referred to them by a close relative than to give it them out to anyone who pops up from the street.
Also, you will have enough references to convince your landlord. Getting referrals from such voluntary organizations, to a large extent, verifies your claim to leading a more decent life after your conviction.
- If Possible, Seal or Expunge Records
For those suffering the pangs of a mistake, they made in their amateur years, expunging or sealing the criminal record may be the best bet. However, since local laws vary from place to place; there might not be any one-fits-all direction on how to go about that.
This process, however, offers ex-convicts an opportunity to appeal to courts to withdraw their records from the public domain. There are cases where the criminal background check will reveal a sealed record, and in other cases, you may completely clear any of such records.
- Get References
You need to go some extra mile to convince your landlord of your trustworthiness. Responsibly lifestyle and timely payment of rents are two critical concerns of any landlord.
So before you submit your application, get as many references – as much as possible. Having a felony on your record already places you steps below other applicants with clean records. So, you may need to convince the landlord beyond a reasonable doubt that you are as – or more – trustworthy as felony-free applicants.
Bringing some reliable references will help increase your chances of being considered for an apartment. Get some persons – either family, friend, colleague, or employer – who can vouch for your character and conduct.
Any useful reference will cut it here. One from your employer not only shows that you’re employed and capable of renting, but it also reveals that you have been well integrated into society.
Addictions and drug charges will ruin your points. Here, a certification or a reliable reference from a rehab center may be convincing.
You may also gather references from your past landlords.
- Present a Bank Statement
Once a landlord finds out a criminal record in your past, his concern about your ability to pay rent automatically scales up. The landlord is scare of late checks. Here a couple of months’ history of your financial transactions from your bank will go a long way. This will erode his fears about your ability to afford the rents.
Generally, financial buoyancy is the first consideration among many landlords. If you are employed, you may want to save over time and offer an upfront rent payment. Since many landlords need money, they may care less about your records and proceed with a lease agreement with you when cash is offered.
- Scale-Up Security Deposit
One sure way to allay the fears of a landlord concern his house security is to offer a substantial security deposit.
This gives him confidence that if any damage occurs, the security deposit will cover-up. Interestingly, you will be refunded the full amount at the expiration of the lease duration. this will make almost any landlord trust you with his property, even if you have records of poor maintenance culture.
- Review Century Program and Start All Over
Ex-convicts have a range of reentry programs. Here’s a great way to bounce back to life in full following a criminal past. These programs help reintegrate people into society and get back on their feet after a conviction. These programs, however, vary from state to state. You may review the complete list and see your chances.
- If Asked, Answer Honestly
You may be lucky to meet with a landlord who wouldn’t have so much interest in your past. With such landlords, no use mentioning your past.
However, in cases where the landlords seem interested in your past, answer with all honesty. Such landlords will most likely run background investigations, and any form of deceit would create a worse impression about you.
However, while delving into your past, emphasize – convincingly – lessons learned and the resultant change.
- Be Responsible
When showing up for the interview, come responsible – in a clean dress, give thoughtful responses, and be honest. Besides money, character and trustworthiness are significant factors among many landlords.
- Get Your Lease Signed on Your Behalf
Here’s one near-guaranteed way to increase your chances of getting an apartment – get your spouse or family without any felony to sign the lease in your stead. With this, you have no concerns about your criminal records, and you can stay in the apartment without issues. This is mostly workable in cases where the landlord does not reside in the same place and may not keep an eye on who stays in the house.
One common hurdle among felony convicts is securing a suitable housing scheme after serving time. Although getting a job is another difficult feat for felons, finding an apartment is even more challenging.
Ignorantly, most felons submit applications to places that are wide ‘anti-felons.’ It is almost 100% certain that their application will get turned down by such property managers – or landlords.
After some deep research, here’s a guide to help you search in the right places and increase your chances of landing an apartment near you. I hope this guide will be of immense help to you.
Robert Gomez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He currently lives in Northern California with “the wifey,” “the kids,” “the dog,” and “that cat,” 🙁 He is also a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row. Felonyfriendlyjobs.org was born to help ex-felons get a second chance in life.